As regular readers likely know, my husband and I are immigrants, as well as parents to three adorable US citizens. We have been green card holders (i.e. permanent US residents) for over 5 years now, and this year we are filing our citizenship paperwork. Ideally, we will become citizens in time to vote in the upcoming presidential election. Also, I have some overseas travel next year and I would like, for the first time ever, not to have to assemble 7 lbs of paperwork in order to get a visa, which I need if I want to go pretty much anywhere with my current passport.
I kept my maiden name when I got married. I love my maiden name, it's somewhat long and weird by American standards, and it takes me forever to spell it over the phone (it appears that I do that a lot). But it's mine and I love it. I never really wanted to take my husband's name; I don't dislike his name or anything like that, I just like my maiden name better because it's mine, it's part of my identity, and I cannot imagine dropping it in any scenario. And it's got a "Z" in it, which means I get to say "Z as in zebra" whenever I spell it to someone. I still get a kick out of it. Every time. But, I have always been open to hyphenating, although the prospect of spelling two weird-sounding last names back-to-back over the phone, all the time, sounds pretty exhausting.
When I got married, anything other than keeping the maiden name would have also been a paperwork disaster, as it would have taken me forever to first get the marriage recognized in my home country (we got married in the US), in order to be able to change my name there, then get a federal ID there, with which I could apply for a passport, which I could then use to re-apply for everything pertinent to my then student status in the US (change of name on I-20 form, new student visa, school records...) This would have been a very costly and painful process, especially since much of it would have had to be done done remotely, likely forcing my parents to deal with the spectacularly inefficient administration in my home country on my behalf. So I have had my maiden name the entire time I have been married (almost 13 years). I am fairly established in my career right now, under my maiden name. All the documents I have are in my maiden name, including the usual suspects such as the social security number, driver's license, payroll, mortgage, title on the car, health insurance paperwork for the entire family, IRS records, as well as the not-so-usual suspects such as federal granting agencies (e.g. NSF).
Now that I am applying for citizenship, I have the option of changing my name, so I have been contemplating whether or not to go through with hyphenation. I know my husband would be happy if I took his name or if I hyphenated, but he knows better than to press the issue. He has been a patient listener to many of my "women oppressed by patriarchy" monologues and knows about all the things I find unfair or oppressive. The real reason why I am even thinking about hyphenation is that it pains me that I don't have anything in my name that ties me to my children. My husband and my sons have the same last name, and I have a different one. It has come up on several occasions when I flew by air with one of my sons -- my son was asked explicitly by TSA or airline agents who I was to him, because the last names were different. My husband reports never to have been asked the same question.
Now you can ask why we didn't do something else with the boys' last name, like hyphenate theirs instead of me hyphenating mine. I personally think that it's not fair to burden little boys with not one, but two weirdly-sounding, weirdly-spelled names. I have no burning desire to preserve our ethnic heritage; I am not sure that I am even equipped or entitled to preserve it anyway, as I was born in a large metropolitan city, I have had a pretty urban upbringing and urban tastes, and don't feel the connection to most of my country's "country" or "heritage" anyway, which probably explains to a great extent why I don't care to socialize with most of my compatriots that I happened to meet in the US. I also want my children to be as seamlessly integrated into this society as possible and to not feel like outcasts. I don't want my children to constantly have to answer questions about where they or their parents are from, and these questions do come about more often with two weird names ("Your parents must be immigrants!") as opposed to just one ("Someone somewhere in your genealogy was an immigrant, just like everyone else's.") I may be wrong on this one, but this is my perception. [If you are an immigrant and your choices for your family and experiences are different from mine, please know that I don't judge your choices. Mostly, I am too preoccupied stressing and obsessing over my own to think about anyone else's.] But the most important reason behind my sons having my husband's last name is that I think it would have broken my husband's heart if they didn't.
So, I now have a chance to hyphenate my name and share a part of my last name with my children. What I don't know is what this change would mean in the rest of my life. Would I have to update my last name on all of the paperwork I am associated with, or just a select few, like the social security number, driver's licence, and passport? Can I still keep going under my maiden name in most situations, especially those pertinent to my career and possession of property? Have any of my readers managed to pull off a minimally invasive last-name-transplant surgery? Or am I just another would-be-but-ultimately-failing feminist who is instead a hopeless victim of the patriarchy for even considering hyphenating my name?